Eric Braeden Reflects on 40 Years as Victor Newman on ‘Young & the Restless’
In 1980, the colorful Rubik’s cube made its debut, Dallas was the No. 1 TV show, and The Young and the Restless expanded from 30 minutes to an hour. The soap’s creator and head writer, William J. Bell, added new characters to help flesh out the canvas, and among them was Victor Newman, played by Emmy winner Eric Braeden, now celebrating his 40th anniversary in Genoa City.
Y&R is honoring the actor’s four decades on the show by writing in the 50th anniversary of Victor’s company, Newman Enterprises. Robert Adamson (Noah, Victor’s grandson), Meg Bennett (Julia, Victor’s first wife), and Robert Parucha (Matt Miller, Victor’s brother) will return to the show for the festivities.
Prior to an on-set celebration for Braeden, taking place today, the actor sat down with TV Insider to discuss his journey on the top-rated serial, his favorite scenes, co-stars, regime changes, what he’d like to see happen next, and how time flies when you’re having fun.
Congratulations on 40 years! You commented once about how the passage of times feels different when you’re working on a daytime drama.
Yes. The show has its own timeline and doesn’t correspond to what’s going on in the real world. Furthermore, you work on these two stages [at the studio] and you have no sense of chronology, of what time of day it is, or what month it is. But, then, as soon as the scene you’re shooting is over, you leave and you turn on [the news] and you’re back in real-life.
How do you feel about the fuss that’s being made over you on set today?
Very honored. And at the same time, I never know what to say until I’m actually on stage. I don’t like to prepare speeches. Let’s see what happens. In moments like this, you suddenly reflect and get a sense of how long it’s been when you see certain faces in the audience. That is very moving. It brings back all kinds of memories. You never know how you’re going to deal with it.
What response did you get from your memoir, I’ll Be Damned, in 2017.
I got a very good response, very positive response from people who read it – almost without exception, I’d say.
Have you gone back and re-read it with the passage of time. Is there anything you’d change?
I have not re-read anything, actually. That would be an interesting thing to do. I may do that one day. But, as of now, I have not.
Many people see Y&R as having two different eras – when the show’s creator Bill Bell ran the show until he stepped down as head writer in 1998, and then after that time.
Bill’s stories were more than stories – they were epics. What was it like playing those tales?
It was wonderful to work with him. You always knew who was in charge. The buck stopped with him. It was clearly delineated. He did not allow any interference from the outside. He knew what he wanted. He laid such a fantastic foundation. People who have followed him have tried to veer away from it, much to their chagrin.
Bill laid such a solid foundation for my character. I will be forever grateful for that. This the most interesting character I have ever played in my life as an actor. It’s why I’m still doing it. I miss Bill a lot, to be honest with you. We all do. You knew when he said something or wrote something that that was it. My God, the storylines, as you called them, were epic. [There are] the Montagues and the Capulets, the Hatfields and the McCoys, and the Newmans and the Abbotts.
What steps would you take to preserve the integrity of your character when subsequent regimes came onto the show?
You’d change certain things or argue about it. I don’t want to get into specifics. You keep moving forward. I know the character better than anyone. Bill and I created that character together. That’s all.
What are your most memorable scenes?
My all-time favorite scenes was the one I had with [the late] Dorothy McGuire, who played my mother [Cora]. Also, the ones I had with George Kennedy, who played my father [Albert]. They were so emotionally rich. I’ve also had memorable scenes with Melody [Thomas Scott, who plays longtime love Nikki] and Peter Bergman [who plays longtime rival Jack Abbott].
You’ve said the rivalry between Victor and Jack makes both characters stronger.
Of course! I think it’s the bedrock of the show.
Chemistry is impossible to define, but can you speak to when you first knew that Victor and Nikki had something special?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t remember. I’d have to say it was early on, of course. It’s always there. Mel always knows how to deal with me. She has a wonderful way of doing that. That always worked. One of the things I regret is, it could still be going on, is the thing between Victor and Ashley (Eileen Davidson).
That was my next question. With all due respect to the other talented and beautiful leading ladies you’ve worked with, Ashley appears to be the only person who could potentially come between Victor and Nikki for any great length of time.
Victor lets his guard down around her in a way he doesn’t with many others in his life.
Very true. That would have been a very viable conflict and an enduring conflict for him. Absolutely. We’ll see what happens.
Is there anything Victor hasn’t done that you’d like to see him tackle?
I leave that to the writers. I always have. I will say that I do think a rekindling of Victor and Ashley would be interesting. Who knows? Beyond that, I can’t say. The writers have a difficult job. I respect it. There you go.
You’re very active with your fans on social media. Is there a shoutout you’d like to give them now?
Let me tell you something, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart — without them, you and I would not be talking. A lot of people in this town forget that. One of the most gratifying parts of this business is to go out and see reactions from fans. People tell you what they feel. And, most of the time, they’re absolutely right on.
Audience members have individual stories. I’ve gotten to know some of them through social media. Some of the stories are very touching. We owe everything to the audience. Period. I’m not just saying this. I really mean it. Wherever you are, wherever we go – New York, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver – what a wonderful thing it is to be welcomed with open arms by our audiences. It’s a wonderful thing, and it means a lot, at least to me.
Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS